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Bears didn't dazzle over the weekend but they should be improved

You mean you weren't blown away Saturday night while watching the Mike Martz Chicago Bears Offensive Experience in all of its dazzling glory for the first time?

Jay Cutler and some other first-teamers were limited to a precious few plays in the exhibition opener, of course, but we knew that going in. Of Cutler's eight plays, four were riveting Matt Forte runs that produced a grand total of 7 yards. Call me crazy, but I remember seeing similar stretches under former Bears offensive coordinator Ron Turner, especially in 2009.

One play was a sack, and another was a play on which Cutler dropped back to pass, found nobody open and scrambled for a 3-yard gain ... on third and 14. True, the other two plays were completed passes to potential No. 1 receiver Johnny Knox (really, isn't everyone a potential No. 1 receiver on this team?), but some in Bears nation are probably calling for Martz's head after the opening drive resulted in a Robbie Gould field goal.

I'm being facetious, of course. The most important result from Saturday is that Cutler and the other projected starters emerged healthy, not that the Chargers won 25-10 or that the Martz offense looked as bland as Turner's on a bad day. It was supposed to. Rumor has it that the Martz playbook is 376,824 pages thick, and for the first exhibition game, I'd much prefer Martz keep the Bears on Page 1.

Three exhibition games and just three more training camp practices in Bourbonnais remain for the Bears to get their new offense, their similar defense that also has a new coordinator and everything else in line. Starting with their Sept. 12 season opener against Detroit, every series the Bears play will be heavily scrutinized by fans and those in my line of work, and we won't be being facetious when we're critical anymore.

The majority of critics so far are expecting to have much to be critical about concerning the Bears. I've heard 7-9 projected as the team's 2010 record more than anything else, but I've heard the Bears picked to win just five games by some cynics. I've yet to encounter a national writer willing to pick the Bears to make the playoffs.

That's understandable given that they share the division with the second-best team in the conference a year ago, Minnesota, and the vogue pick to represent the conference in the Super Bowl this year, Green Bay. Even the usually hapless Lions suddenly have a reasonably bright future and might have more bite in them this fall than people think.

I still think the Bears should merit more love than they're getting nationally. They were a 7-9 team last season, and given the lopsided nature of some losses and the down-to-the-wire nature of some wins, they seemed lucky to win seven times.

But the 2009 Bears played without their most important, if not their best, defensive player in Brian Urlacher after he suffered a Week 1 injury. They struggled with the ups and downs of Cutler, who led the universe in interceptions, even if they often weren't his fault. They lacked an elite pass rusher, continuity and stability on the offensive line and anyone worthy of being an NFL starter at safety.

Urlacher is back and healthy. Cutler should be more productive under Martz and with much more familiarity with Chicago's receivers, though his problems with interceptions aren't about to disappear entirely. And over the offseason, the Bears brought aboard the best pass rusher on the market (Julius Peppers), got rid of some dead weight like Orlando Pace while adding coach Mike Tice for the offensive line and shored up the safety position by reacquiring Chris Harris and drafting Major Wright.

That list of improvements in problem areas doesn't even include the additions of Chester Taylor and Brandon Manumaleuna. I still have numerous concerns about the Bears, but by taking what they did last year and adding what the Bears have added, shouldn't we be able to realistically expect better than 7-9 of them?

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